- The Central Surgery in Hong Kong has partnered with four hotel groups to launch what its CEO believes is the city’s first medical staycation package
- The staycation packages offered will cover a night in a hotel and procedures including colonoscopy, liposuction, breast augmentation and double eyelid surgery
The coronavirus pandemic has placed unparalleled demands on modern health care systems. Fearful of contracting the virus, many people have steered clear of hospitals and avoided doctor’s waiting rooms for all but urgent health issues.
Private clinics have seen a precipitous drop in clients, including The Central Surgery, a day surgery centre in Hong Kong, which saw its business more than halve in the first half of 2020.“It began to improve after June, but then came the third and fourth [Covid-19] waves,” says Philip Cheng, its CEO. Cheng has two years’ experience working in a private Bangkok hospital that offered medical tourism.
When he saw local hotels rolling out staycation packages, he thought the time was right to introduce medical staycations to Hong Kong, combining elective medical care with a hotel stay.
“We need to join hands to get through this tough time,” says Cheng.
Friends in the hospitality industry responded eagerly. The centre has partnered with four hotel groups running eight hotels in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui to launch what Cheng believes is Hong Kong’s first medical staycation package.
The centre is experienced at offering colonoscopies – which check for causes of abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, chronic constipation, chronic diarrhoea and other intestinal problems and screen for colon cancer – and gastroscopies, which check the stomach for ulcers, pain, acid reflux and cancers. It will feature these procedures in its initial health packages.
It will also offer an annual health check-up, which includes a physical examination, screening for cancer markers, hepatitis A and B and an anti-ageing profile, and a longer-term weight-management package.
All packages include a one-night staycation with the option to extend.
Through the partnership, Cheng says patients can save 10 to 20 per cent on the combined cost of the medical procedure and hotel stay. Charges vary depending on procedure and choice of hotel and room type.
Patients may book their hotel stay before or after their visit to the centre. The eight participating hotels are Two MacDonnell Road, Shama Central Serviced Apartments, The Murray, Butterfly on LKF, Butterfly on Wellington, and Ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan Hotel, all in Central on Hong Kong Island, and Page 148 and Butterfly on Prat in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.
The centre expects to offer other medical staycation packages, including day surgery procedures such as liposuction, breast augmentation and double eyelid surgery.
“My experience in Bangkok showed me that patients prefer to stay somewhere where they won’t meet too many people and can enjoy the services of the hotel. They want to stay a few days to rest and recover and enjoy good food,” says Cheng.
Scrupulous hygiene standards and precautionary measures are critical for success. Unlike hospitals, the centre doesn’t have an emergency department and doesn’t treat Covid-19 cases. Patients who come to the centre for surgery will have already seen a doctor and will be screened to make sure they have no symptoms.Cheng hopes to see medical staycations become a regular fixture. “We want to start with the local people,” he says, adding it’s a good opportunity to test their capabilities before travel restrictions are lifted. Once a vaccine is widely available, he expects to see an influx of visitors from China and Macau
“Medical tourism doesn’t just mean collaborating with hotels. I hope in the future we can make partnerships with other industries, such as airlines,” he says.
The concept has been under review for more than a decade.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management did an assessment of the barriers to medical tourism’s development in the city in 2011, which it saw as “policies and regulations, government support, costs, capacity problems and the health care needs of the local community”.
To overcome these, it suggested “new promotional activity policies, government action to encourage investment in the medical tourism market, and cooperative efforts by the hospitality sector and medical institutions to develop medical tourism products”.
So many firms have taken a hit from the pandemic that bouncing back in many cases will mean trying to figure out something new. A recent McKinsey & Company report suggests that companies that invest in innovation through a crisis outperform their peers during the recovery. What’s more, a crisis can create an urgency that is a catalyst for collaborative effort and overcomes institutional inertia.
“We need to do something new to get out of this tough situation. I hope that be coming together we can help people who might feel trapped in Hong Kong, we can help the economy by stimulating spending,” says Cheng.
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